Wind farm debate divides Lanai friends and families

Published: Jun. 21, 2012 at 9:43 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 21, 2012 at 11:49 PM HST
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Alberta de Jetley
Alberta de Jetley
Butch Gima
Butch Gima
Bruce Harvey
Bruce Harvey

LANAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - There's a condition to the deal to sell Lanai. David Murdock wants to continue with his controversial wind farm project for the northwestern part of the island.

In the community surrounding Lanai city, wind power signs outnumber those planted by politicians. The issue over wind energy development as an export divides residents and relatives.

"My brother is anti. My sister-in-law is anti. Another sister-in-law is pro," wind energy supporter Alberta de Jetley said.

The publisher of Lanai Today newspaper is also Lanai's most outspoken proponent of Murdock's ongoing idea to construct a 200-megawatt wind farm and ship power to Oahu via an undersea cable.

"The state has a mandate for us to reduce our fossil fuel consumption," de Jetley said. "We need to be part of that package."

Wind far supporters argue it would lower electricity rates for Lanai. But opponents believe the project would ruin the Pineapple island and deepen the divide between those for and against.

"All of that power was designed to go to Oahu. None was going to stay here. There's going to be really no benefits for Lanai residents," said Butch Gima of Lanaians for Sensible Growth.

Opposition is organized. But the wind farm plan has union support from the ILWU's members who work in Lanai's hotels and small businesses.

"If you're not pro windmill and you work at the hotels, you're going to have a hard time," wind farm opponent Bruce Harvey said.

In his agreement to sell Lanai, Murdock retains the rights to pursue his wind farm. It would spread out over nearly 20 square miles and, according to de Jetley, pump about a million dollars a year into Lanai's economy.

"When push comes to shove, we need to help the state meet that thirty percent mandate to reduce our use of fossil fuels," she said.

Opponents believe money isn't the only bottom line in this debate.

"Maybe the kids and the mom are against the windmills. But they have to put the pro-windmill signs in the front yard because dad works for the company," Gima said.

Lanai's wind farm issue isn't blowing away, neither are the visible signs of a great divide.

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